Round-Up: Original Spin, Yoda-Speak, Reversible Diamonds [SCIENCE!]

Original spin: Was the universe born whirling?

We know that the Universe is both expanding and accelerating (and thanks to a team who recently won the Nobel Prize, that the expansion is accelerating, too). As if that weren’t enough to try and wrap your brain around, it turns out that it may also be spinning.

That is what physicist Michael Longo at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor thinks he has found. If so, a wholesale review of our assumptions about the cosmos would be on the cards – and perhaps a solution to one of its biggest mysteries, the puzzling fact of matter’s existence. As an anonymous peer-reviewer of Longo’s most recent paper wrote: “Such [a] claim, if proven true, would have a profound impact on cosmology and would very likely result in a Nobel prize.” What gives?

The law of conservation of parity states that nature isn’t right- or left-handed; that is, the universe doesn’t act one way one the left side and another on the right. But Longo’s research shows a non-random arrangement of clockwise- or counterclockwise-spinning galaxies along a specific arc in the universe — dubbed “the axis of evil” — which suggests that not only was the Universe born expanding and accelerating, but also spinning. And this spin, should it exist, might hold the answers to our questions about dark matter.

Read more at New Scientist.

Did our ancestors speak like Yoda?

We can expect that primitive man developed primitive language without much debate–after all, words and syntax had to start somewhere, and Shakespeare it was not. But as it turns out, early language probably rang a bit more familiar than we’d previously thought. Based on historical patterns of “2,200 languages, dead and alive,” it seems our ancestors spoke a language that would sound backward to us.

More accurately, researchers think that all human languages descended from a single form — which probably had the speech patterns of a certain green Star Wars master — that was spoken in East Africa 50,000 years ago.

Read the rest at The Week.

Did Saturn’s Moon Iapetus Once Have Its Own Moon?

Yo, dawg. We heard you like moons, so we put a moon around your moon. At least, that’s the current theory for explaining a couple of strange features on Saturn’s moon, Iapetus.

A former subsatellite would help explain some of the mysteries of Iapetus, one of Saturn’s moons. For starters, Iapetus is not a sphere—it’s a bit squished. And its flattened shape implies that Iapetus once spun very quickly, completing a rotation in 16 hours. It now takes 79 days. So what put on the brakes?

More at Scientific American.

Weird Form of Carbon Acts as “Reversible” Diamond

Graphite is always soft, diamonds are always hard, and nanotubes are always bizarre: these are the basic tenets of carbon research. (Which leads me to wonder if carbon is ever not weird.) It seems that a glassy, pliable form of carbon in production since the late 1950s has strange properties–when placed under pressure, the crystalline structure changes to a 3D, diamond-like pattern. Lay off the pressure and it returns to its former glassy, flexible state.

Read more at National Geographic.

Introducing the real-life Holodeck

Computer Scientist Eric Horvitz demonstrates modern technology that allows users to interact with virtual objects and explains why he thinks we’re much closer to creating a Holodeck than one might think.

More on World Science Festival.

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